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NAPOLEON I - Letter Signed 1810 regarding munitions in Rome

  • £2,600.00

NAPOLEON I (1769-1821)

Letter Signed (“Nap”) to the Duc de Feltre [Henri-Jacques Clarke, Minister of War], sending instructions about the munitions required in Rome and Civita Vecchia.

1¼ pages folio in French, Paris, 15 December 1810.                   

Trans: “I have been told that there is a foundry in Rome. Let me know the state of the artillery at Civita Vecchia and at Rome, so that I can see whether it is necessary to keep this foundry. There must be cannons . . . in the various forts which, from the report I have before me . . . there are 72 in Rome. It is necessary to remould . . . it is necessary to recast the piece of 13 and that of 15 . . . in order to have two of 16, to make 4 pieces of 11, four of 12 . . . and to destroy the 5-pounders, 2½ and 2. With these 72 pieces [of artillery] the Castel S. Angelo is insufficiently armed, and cannot do enough damage to the enemy. There should be at least six mortars . . . in order to dominate the city. Civita Vecchia appears to me to be equally badly munitioned. The 49 pieces which are there are of poor quality. Have these pieces recast. I should be advised of how many cannon-balls there are, so that the armament can be organized. . .

After some years of uneasy relations between Pope and Emperor, Napoleon had ordered French troops to march on Rome. They entered the city in January 1808 and Pius VII became a virtual prisoner in the Quirinal. By May of the following year, Napoleon had ordered the annexation of Rome, declaring it a “free imperial city”. Pius VII immediately responded by excommunicating the Emperor. Napoleon in turn ordered his troops into the Quirinal, where the Pope was arrested and the French tricolor replaced the papal flag over the Castel Sant’Angelo. (An excellent account of Pius VII’s tribulations during this period can be found in John Julius Norwich’s The Popes.)

Three months after this letter, Napoleon’s only legitimate son was born, and would be named King of Rome. Despite this, Napoleon proved, quite understandably, hugely unpopular in Rome, having robbed the city of the Church and its attendant bureaucracy, which were central to the city’s identity. Despite this, after Waterloo both Napoleon’s favourite sister, Pauline, and his mother, Letizia, lived the rest of their lives in Rome, Pauline at the splendid Palazzo Borghese and Letizia at the Palazzo Bonaparte.

Pius VII was eventually freed and allowed to return to Rome; he arrived in May 1814, after Napoleon’s abdication. The Papal States were restored to their previous boundaries at the Congress of Vienna.

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